The unprecedented internal leak out of Sony has already showed us how cozy reporters can be with the industry they cover. But new hacked emails from Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, released today and obtained by Gawker, show the company has the power to kill a story altogether.
Exchanges between Lynton, Sony PR, Times Hollywood beat reporter Brooks Barnes, and his editors at the paper reveal an unsettling amount of influence-wielding. In one conversation from December 2013, Sony communications guru Charles Sipkins gets a heads up from Times reporter Rachel Abrams regarding a story in progress. It seems mostly like she's checking to see if her facts are in order—normal and good—but then Sipkins tells Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal that he's going to try to axe a remark about her strained relationship with Lynton.
"PLEASE FIX THIS," Pascal screams through cyberspace (click "expand" to enlarge):
Sipkins—who was later fired by Pascal at the suggestion of her husband—takes care of it: "I talked to brooks and to NY, it is out of the story."
A later exchange shows Sipkins killing one of Barnes' stories altogether, an amusing report that notable cinema disaster Ishtar finally broke even:
"I've asked brooks to ice the Ishtar story until after we see them on Tuesday," says Sipkins. "Let's try and talk them out of it." "ok," replies Lynton, "or I can talk to [New York Times Deputy Business Editor] peter [Lattman] and kill it." The subject doesn't come up again.
Finally, in November of this year, Sipkins receives an email attachment from Barnes, the "unedited copy" of a story he's just published on 20th Century Fox chairwoman Stacey Snider. In it, TriStar (a division of Sony) chairman Tom Rothman perceives a slight against his career:
Some of Fox's current franchises were assembled under the creative guidance of Thomas E. Rothman, who was ousted as Fox's chairman in 2012.
He believes it should read "many," not "some," and demands a change. Barnes changes the wording, only to replace "some" with "many" once again. Rothman is furious:
I only just got home to be able to pull this up. But ML was right, it is quite different because words have dif connotations. And MANY is quite different than SOME. They watered it down in response to complaints and then bullshat you.
The Sony squad is so incensed they consider leaking the whole affair to the press:
On Nov 3, 2014, at 11:00 PM, Rothman, Tom wrote:
Thanks man. And it really really is. They didn't put it right.
Should we leak it?
From: Lynton, Michael
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2014 5:19 AM
To: Rothman, Tom
Subject: Re: 04snider
what would we leak and to whom?
Rothman replies once more:
"To any of the blogs. They'd eat it up."